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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Progress: PSC to hold rate-increase hearings in Macon, Rome, Savannah

It's sad that constituent outreach is news, but hey, this is the Peach State. And this is big news.

The Georgia Public Service Commission, the state agency that decides how much you pay to turn on your lights and heat your oven, is getting all Kerouac on us and embracing the open road, brah.

The five-member commission voted today to venture outside its Atlanta offices to hold hearings about two rate increases proposed by Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light. Consumer advocates AARP and Georgia Watch requested the uncommon move because the utility's requested rate increase were so eye-poppingly gigantic.

If approved by commissioners, Georgia Power's proposed $1.02 billion rate hike would phase in over 26 months starting next January. According to Georgia Watch, it would ultimately add $18 per month to the average residential ratepayer's bill, for a total of $216 every year. The utility also wants the OK for a plan that allows it to automatically increase rates rather than file a case with the PSC. All this in addition to the surcharge customers can expect to see on their bills come January to help pay for two new nuclear reactors near Augusta.

AGL's proposed $54 million rate hike would take effect in November and, according to Georgia Watch, add approximately $3 per month to the average residential ratepayer's bill.

Ya see why we said it was high time to regulate the regulators?

The AJC's Margaret Newkirk has more details about the hearings:

Hearings on both increases are scheduled for Aug. 18 at the Bibb County Commission in Macon, Aug. 31 at City Hall in Savannah and Sept. 22 at the Civic Center in Rome. The Georgia Power portion of the hearings begins at 6 p.m. and the AGL portion at 7 p.m.

Atlanta public hearings are Sept. 13 for AGL and Oct. 4 for Georgia Power. Both begin at 6 p.m. in the PSC offices on Washington St.

There's no telling how testimony from business owners and families outside of Atlanta who stand to be burdened by the hikes might influence the commissioners. But it's a big step for an agency that arguably impacts our wallets more than any other elected official — and has a well-earned reputation, save for outgoing Commissioner Bobby Baker, to do what's best for just the utilities.

On a lighter note, this gives Hollywood producers a great idea for a future film starring Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughan. Maybe even Rick Moranis. Admit it, you'd pay to see a movie about five commissioners on a road trip, eating at Denny's, and listening to people talk about gas and electricity prices. Get Jim Jarmusch to direct it if you're one of the those indie types. Fill that budget deficit with royalties.

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